st. pauls cathedral

Tune Tuesday: I Will Always Give Thanks 1665

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John Blow Image One
Artist: Robert White (Engraver)
18th Century
Collection: National Library of France
Source: Gallica Digital Library
Photo Credit: Wikipedia & Wikimedia

Three hundred, fifty-five years ago, John Blow, an English Baroque organist, composed the “club anthemI Will Always Give Thanks, collaborating with Pelham Humfrey and William Turner. There is not a lot written about this song but, there are two suggestions of it either being an honoring of the victory over the Dutch in 1665 or a simple commemoration of the three men working together.

In late 1668, Blow was appointed to Westminster Abbey as its organist and three of his students were William Croft, Jeremiah Clarke and Henry Purcell. In 1685, he became the private musician to King James II. He was the choir-master at St. Paul’s Cathedral in 1687 and became Composer to the Chapel Royal in 1699.

As a side note, 1665 was a bad year. Sounds familiar. ~Vic

Additional Reading & Sources:
Choral Evensong/John Blow Death Anniversary (BBC October 1, 2008)
John Blow Biography (encyclopedia.com)
Tales for Our Time (Mark Steyn Online)
John Blow Anthems (The Gramophone Newsletter Site)
John Blow Commemoration (Westminster Abbey Site)
A Journal of the Plague Year (Wikipedia)
Battle of Lowestoft (Wikipedia)
Great Plague of London (Wikipedia)

Music Monday: Now Is The Month of Maying 1595

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Thomas Morley Image One
Image Credit: All Poetry

Stepping backwards a bit, I stumbled across something prior to 1600…

Thomas Morley was an English composer, theorist, singer and organist of the Renaissance. He was one of the foremost members of the English Madrigal School. Living in London at the same time as Shakespeare, Morley was the most famous composer of secular music in Elizabethan England. [He] was active in church music as a singer, composer and organist at St Paul’s Cathedral [and] was involved in music publishing. [He] lived for a time in the same parish as Shakespeare and, a connection between the two has been long speculated but, never proven. In addition to his madrigals, [he] wrote instrumental music, including keyboard music […].

Now Is The Month of Maying is one of the most famous of the English ballets […]. It is based on the canzonet So Ben Mi Chi Ha Bon Tempo used by Orazio Vecchi […]. It was printed in […] Morley’s First Book of Ballets to Five Voyces [in] 1595. The song delights in bawdy double-entendre. It is, apparently, about spring dancing but, this is a metaphor for making love/sex. For example, a barley-break would have suggested outdoor sexual activity (rather like […] a roll in the hay). The use of such imagery and puns increased during the Renaissance.

It was also heard in 1964 on The Andy Griffith Show episode The Song Festers.

Now Is The Month of Maying Image Two
Image Credit: sheetmusicdirect.com & amazon.com

Lyrics:
Now is the month of maying,
When merry lads are playing,
Fa la la la la la la la la,
Fa la la, etc…
Each with his bonny lass
Upon the greeny grass.
Fa la la, etc…

The Spring, clad all in gladness,
Doth laugh at Winter’s sadness,
Fa la la, etc…
And to the bagpipe’s sound
The nymphs tread out their ground.
Fa la la, etc…

Fie then! Why sit we musing,
Youth’s sweet delight refusing?
Fa la la, etc…
Say, dainty nymphs, and speak,
Shall we play barley break?
Fa la la, etc…

Additional Reading & Sources:
Thomas Morley (Britannica)
Thomas Morley (Elizabethan-Era Site)
The Song Festers (IMDB)
Now Is The Month of Maying (Wikipedia)
Thomas Morley (Wikipedia)

Barney’s Voice Lessons